French Riviera police turn back private jet of super-rich holidaymakers

Flying in Europe has been severely restricted to contain the coronavirus outbreak

Nice is the gateway to beach resorts on the Côte d’Azur, the other name for the French Riviera, such as Saint-Tropez, above, and Cannes.  Getty Images
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A group of wealthy would-be holidaymakers who flew by private jet from London to France’s Côte d’Azur during the coronavirus lockdown have been turned back by police.

Seven men in their 40s and 50s and three women in their 20s arrived at Marseille-Provence Airport on Saturday for a holiday in Cannes but were immediately intercepted by authorities.

The jetsetters left the French airport four hours later after arguing with authorities. Nine of the holidaymakers returned to London by the private jet, while the tenth went back to Germany.

A Croatian national working in banking and property who organised the trip had arranged three helicopters to pick them up directly from the airport and take them to a holiday villa on the French Riviera, a police source told the BFM news outlet.

The source said police guarding the borders of Marseille-Provence Airport asked the private jet not to come and land on its tarmac, but the plane still landed anyway.

“Controlled by the border police and the gendarmerie of air transport, none had valid reasons for travelling,” the source added.

“Crossing borders is only allowed with a legitimate or compelling reason.”

As well as the Croatian man, the source said, the 10 tourists were German, French, Romanian and Ukrainian. The source said “the young women were apparently escort girls”.

The Brazilian-made private jet they flew in, the Embraer Legacy 600, costs around £5 million (Dh 22.9m).

None of the people on the plane have yet been identified by police.

The holidaymakers made the flight despite Europe’s airspace being mainly empty, due to restrictions imposed to tackle the spread of the coronavirus. Authorities say they do not want private jets to flout the restrictions.

This includes in France, where to enter, people need an international travel certificate that they can be asked to present by border authorities upon entering the country. Although French nationals can return to the country, the rules for foreigners are currently far stricter.